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Sleep sex or sexsomnia is a form of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) parasomnia (similar to sleepwalking) that causes people to engage in sexual acts while they are asleep, such as masturbation, fondling, sexual intercourse and actions that would be sexual assault or rape were the sufferer conscious. The proposed medical diagnosis is NREM Arousal Parasomnia – Sexual Behaviour in Sleep, and is considered to be a distinct variant of sleepwalking (ICSD 2). There are often unpleasant consequences associated with sleep sex and it has been used as a criminal defense in rape cases.[1] Other negative effects include feelings of shame and embarrassment and also can cause relationship issue and stress.[2]

Those who suffer from sexsomnia have confusional arousals and rarely remember the event. People who have a history of doing other sleep activities such as sleepwalking or sleep talking are more likely to exhibit sexsomnia episodes. Factors that may increase episodes of sleep sex are alcohol, sleep deprivation or even sleep apnea and other sleep disruptions.[3] Sexsomnia episodes could be triggered by the contact with bed partner.[4] In some cases sexualised movements during sleep could be caused by sleep related epilepsy which results in sexual arousal, thrusting and orgasms. Simple sexualised movements could be also associated with REM sleep disorders.

Sexsomnia is a disorder that affects males and females. Isolated reports exist about men and women who have had sex with strangers during the sleep period; in cases where memory of the sexual act is not retained, the detection of used condoms and semen stains on the bed the morning after the sexual incident are signs of the affliction.

Sexsomnia can occur with other sleep disorders such as sleepwalking, sleep apnea, night terrors and bedwetting and can be triggered by stress, previous sleep deprivation and excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs.

Diagnosis: Sleep sex often goes undiagnosed because of feelings of shame or embarrassment. When it is reported it is usually by a sleep partner of someone who has sexsomnia. Then to verify the diagnosis, polysomnography is done during a night in a sleep lab, which confirms whether the patient is truly asleep while performing these sexual acts. Also, the diagnosis of sleep sex is difficult because most people do not come forward with their nocturnal activities as they are unaware of it. The majority of cases come to light only after criminal charges have been filed.

Treatment: Clonazepam has been used as a first line of treatment for this condition

Cases reported in the pressNatalie Pona, the then Sun reporter, broke the story of the first case of sexsomnia in the fall of 2005. On 30 November 2005, a Toronto court acquitted a man of sexual assault after he was diagnosed with sleep sex disorder, although prosecutors filed an appeal of the acquittal in February 2006.[11] The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the acquittal on 7 February 2008.[12]

In Britain, a man from York was cleared of three counts of rape on 19 December 2005.[13]

In Australia, a woman was reported as leaving her house at night and having sex with strangers while sleepwalking.[14]

On 8 August 2007, a British RAF mechanic was cleared of a rape charge after the jury found him not responsible for his actions when he had sex with a 15-year-old girl.

On 23 March 2009, a British woman gave an interview in which she spoke about problems in her life caused by sexsomnia.[15]

On 12 February 2010, an Australian man was found not guilty of rape due to sexsomnia

References1.^ Salkeld, Luke (7 August 2007). ""Sexomniac" RAF Man Sobs as he is Cleared of Raping a Girl in his Sleep". Daily Mail (London).
2.^ Sleep sex disorder information Retrieved on 3 March 2010
3.^ "Sexsomnia". Psychology Today. 2009.
4.^ Trajanovic NN, Mangan M, Shapiro CM (December 2007). "Sexual behaviour in sleep: an internet survey". Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 42 (12): 1024–31. doi:10.1007/s00127-007-0258-0. PMID 17932612.
5.^ "Sexsomnia".
6.^ Sexual behavior in sleep Retrieved on 3 March 2010
7.^ Shapiro CM, Trajanovic NN, Fedoroff JP (June 2003). "Sexsomnia—a new parasomnia?". Can J Psychiatry 48 (5): 311–7. PMID 12866336.
8.^ A patient treated with clonazepam was featured on the television documentary Strange Sex that aired on TLC 27 January 2010
9.^ Shapiro CM, Fedoroff JP, Trajanovic NN (1996). "Sexual behavior in sleep: a newly described parasomnia". Sleep Research 25: 367.
11.^ Globe Life
12.^ Ontario court upholds 'sexsomnia ' acquittal
13.^ "Sleepwalking man cleared of rape". BBC News. 19 December 2005. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
14.^ "Sleepwalking woman had sex with strangers". New Scientist. 15 October 2004.
15.^ "I 'm a sexsomniac!". News of the World. 23 March 2009.
16.^ Bothroyd, Sally (12 Feb 2010). "Man not guilty in 'sexsomnia ' rape trial". ABC News.
Mangan MA, Reips UD (May 2007). "Sleep, sex, and the Web: surveying the difficult-to-reach clinical population suffering from sexsomnia". Behav Res Methods 39 (2): 233–6. doi:10.3758/BF03193152

References: 3.^ "Sexsomnia". Psychology Today. 2009. 4.^ Trajanovic NN, Mangan M, Shapiro CM (December 2007) 15.^ "I 'm a sexsomniac!". News of the World. 23 March 2009. 16.^ Bothroyd, Sally (12 Feb 2010) Mangan MA, Reips UD (May 2007). "Sleep, sex, and the Web: surveying the difficult-to-reach clinical population suffering from sexsomnia". Behav Res Methods 39 (2): 233–6. doi:10.3758/BF03193152

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